Due to a significant increase in Covid-19 infections over the past weeks, the German legislator updated and extended the applicable occupational safety regulations in connection with the pandemic. Based on the German SARS-CoV-2 Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (SARS-CoV-2-Arbeitsschutzverordnung) and the German Infection Protection Act (Infektionsschutzgesetz) the following occupational safety regulations in connection with COVID-19 apply until March 19, 2022:
1. Mandatory Workplace Access Controls:
When accessing the workplace and throughout their stay on site, employees must carry the relevant proof with them that they are either vaccinated, tested negative against, or recovered from, Covid-19 (“VRT Status”). Employers are now obligated to perform strict controls of the compliance with this requirement and to document these controls.
Employees with valid vaccination or recovery certificate may be exempt from daily access controls once the employer has checked and documented their VRT Status.
If employees provide a negative Covid-19 test as evidence for their VRT Status, the test shall not be older than (i) 24 hours in case of an antigen or rapid test, or (ii) 48 hours in case of a PCR test.
There is no requirement to control the VRT Status of employees working exclusively from home.
2. Home Office:
The employer is generally required to offer the employees to work from home, unless there are compelling operational reasons requiring that the work is performed out of the office. Such compelling operational reasons include the following:
- office activities such as: the processing and distribution of incoming mail, the processing of incoming and outgoing goods, counter service;
- contact with customers and employees is required;
- front office activities;
- maintenance and repair activities, IT service;
- in general, whenever operations or production can otherwise only be maintained to a limited extent or not at all and/or would be accompanied by considerable loss of revenue; or
- technical issues, such as non-convertibility of telephones.
Employees shall accept the employer’s offer to work from home, unless they have compelling operational or personal reasons that impede the work from home. Reasons impeding employees to work from home may include space constraints, interference from third parties, or inadequate technical equipment.
At least twice a week, employers shall offer regular self-testing in their premises to all employees who do not work exclusively from home. The cost for the tests shall be borne by the employers.
- Employees are entitled to schedule an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination during working hours.
- The employer shall provide organizational and personnel support to the company doctor (Betriebsarzt) (if any) who carries out COVID-19 vaccinations in the company.
- Employees shall be informed of the health risks of a COVID-19 infection and the possibility of a protective vaccination.
5. Hygiene Measures:
- Employers shall prepare and implement operational hygiene plans (e.g. including adequate hand hygiene at the workplace, regular ventilation, contact minimization, etc.) and make them accessible to its workforce.
- Due to the COVID-19 pandemic German employers shall carry out an assessment of the infection risks at the workplace (based on the work arrangements such as number of employees, shared offices, type of work, etc.) and implement a hygienic concept accordingly addressing all measures that the employees working in Germany shall comply with to reduce the infection risk of the workforce.
- Such hygiene concept needs to be communicated …….